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Walking the intellectual high wire with Roger
Unfortunately, for those with a somewhat practical perspective, most of Roger Scruton's writings are about as far away as you can get from the lively fusillades of practical wit and outraged innuendo regularly unleashed on the liberal-conservative battlefield by the likes of Ann Coulter, David Horowitz and William Grim. However, a recent essay by Scruton in the New Criterion, titled Why I became a conservative, is still well worth reading.
Unfortunately, for the uninitiated, Roger Scruton is more philosopher than journalist. And his perspective is more cultural than political -- with an emphasis on "aesthetics" as much as on political or economic values. In fact, much of his writing could be described as ontological -- in the philosophical sense -- an attempt to work out a conservative philosophy of being, determining why we are here and what we should do with the brief time allotted to us to in this all too material world (as Madonna might put it, especially now that she's into studying Hassidic thought).
Unfortunately, reading Roger Scruton is also an acquired taste. He's a man who uses big words and expresses big thoughts. He'd just as well quote T.S. Elliot as Charles Krauthammer, or sing the praises of Edmund Burke rather than Bill O'Reilly. However, he has a lot to say of importance, especially to the many casualties of our modern-day universities who have been exposed to unsafe levels of post-colonial "critical thought" (pollution of the soul).
For example, Scruton effectively critiques the destructive nihilism of notorious left-lib cultural icon and deceased French psychoanalyst, Michel Foucault. As Scruton notes about 'Les mots et les chose,' Foucault's clarion call to the young and foolish to join together in cultural rebellion:
Scruton takes on the politically-correct ideologues in our universities who are the direct heirs to the politico-social philosophy of the anarcho-Marxists who tore up the streets of Paris in 1968, in an unseemly "revolutionary" orgy of hurled concrete, looting, mayhem and violence. He confronts their nihilistic "post-colonial" utopianism and anti-Americanism with a calming intellectual articulation of a more realistic conservative alternative.
Probably most valuable is Scruton's celebration of the Anglo-Saxon intellectual roots of the Western liberal-democratic republican tradition (and the still enduring philosophical principles that inspired the revolutionary ethos of America's Founding Fathers) as a real-world answer to the abstract, utopian radicalism of the likes of Foucault or Derridaut. As Scruton puts it, in describing the benefits of his education as an English lawyer:
In fact, if one takes Scruton's political philosophy to its logical conclusion, the constitutional form of democratic government created by the American Founding Fathers -- with its additional checks and balances -- is probably, in its ideal incarnation, the ultimate rejoinder to Foucault -- a democratic constitutional system in which the consent and will of the people legitimizes power and in which established power exists without oppression while fostering maximum liberty and economic prosperity.
It's interesting to note too that despite what many might consider his early preoccupation with "high culture" and "aesthetics", Roger Scruton was also wise and pragmatic enough to recognize the intrinsic threat to civilized existence posed by Communism and the totalitarian Communist state. And his practical efforts at coming to the aid of "dissidents" in the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War only sharpened his ability to "deconstruct" the Orwellian nature of the nightmare that existence becomes in the cruel, soulless urban gulags produced when abstract Marxist revolutionary theory finds its incarnation in the collectivist totalitarian state:
If nothing else, if you have a short attention span or an allergy to high-fallutin' intellectual musing, skip through the first half of Scruton's Why I became a conservative essay, to his vivid recollections of his first visit to Czechoslovakia during the Cold War years. Here his novelistic talents launch into full gear and he paints a chilling picture of just how lethal to everyday existence were the routinized Communist dictatorships of the twentieth century, with their chokehold on ideas, spontaneity and liberty:
In short, if you're in the mood for some cultural enrichment, with a conservative emphasis, then the latest autobiographical missive from Roger Scruton is highly recommended.
Murray Soupcoff is the author of 'Canada 1984'. He also was Executive
Editor of We Compute Magazine for many years, and is now the publisher and
editor of the popular conservative Web site, The
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